Good evening everyone,
I always look forward to getting The Hockey News in the mail every week. I relish the chance to read the stories and interesting anecdotes to see how I can relate them to stuttering. Those who know me would definitely say I am a huge hockey fan, if not a fanatic. But sometimes you read an article and you have to step back and wonder, "What the !@$!#!@#$! was this person thinking?" As a person who stutters, I am learning (and continue to learn) how to make my words count and exercise my control to not let my stuttering become a flaw for others to exploit, which I could not do for a long time.
There was an article written about the effort to put together the Olympic hockey team from Finland. In 2010, the National Hockey League will shut down to allow their players to represent their native countries in the quest for Olympic gold in Vancouver. If you ever have the chance to hear a former athlete speak about their greatest triumphs, chances are strong that you may hear them reflect on what a special honor it was to represent their country and compete at the highest level. However, there was an anecdote that made me look twice, and realize: If there were ever someone who needed an attitude adjustment, it was this guy I am about to talk about.
Miikka Kiprusoff is the goalie for the Calgary Flames. A good, steady netminder, but nothing approaching superstar status, although he did play in a Stanley Cup Final. He stated he wanted to be the number one choice to represent his country-nothing wrong with that, showing the competitive juices. Then, according to author Edward Fraser, in November, he stated either he'd be labeled the starter-or he'd stay home over the break. There are many descriptions I could use to describe that, and needless to say, the coach of the team, Jari Kurri, didn't take that comment too kindly. "The players don't make the decisions. The coaches do," he said.
The one thing I have tried and consistently stressed about my stuttering is the desire and the requirement to have a good attitude. With that comment, can you blame anyone for saying "I'll take my chances with someone else?"
I tried to visualize this scenario as to how it might have played out in high school or college. I saw myself asking to participate in an event, and here is the response: "Sure, Steven you can play, but you can't stutter." Or something to the effect of, "Yes, you can play, but you can't speak to the referee or anyone else." I can control many things. I can't control if I have a good speech day or a bad one. I can't control the locking of my vocal chords when I am trying to say what I want. I can control my ATTITUDE.
We all make decisions in our life and we must live with the consequences. And for one Miikka Kirpusoff, if he decides not to participate, that is his right. But I guarantee you long after he retires, he will not be remembered for what he did on the ice. He'll be remembered for not wanting to care about others enough. I will never put myself above the NSA Nation or anyone else because I care about others! We who stutter have a very special bond that must never be broken, and that bond is to be celebrated every day.
My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.